Sunday, 17 May 2015



Top fruit
The dormant season may have passed but there is still time to plant fruit trees and bushes as most plants are containerised today. There is a wide variety of top fruit trees and soft fruit bushes in garden centres, but care is needed in selecting the right varieties for your own locality. Some shops and garden centres are selling plants that may not be suitable for Scottish gardens. The Scottish climate is wetter and cooler than the south of England, so some popular varieties down south such as Cox and russet apples are not great up north. However, Discovery, Katy, Fiesta and Red Devil are all good for our climate, and Bramley is still an excellent cooking apple in Scotland.
Apple Discovery
Pear Beurre Hardy and Concorde seem to do well, but Conference struggles to ripen up properly and the best flavoured Comice is a sucker for scab disease.
I lost my plum Victoria to silver leaf disease, but have replaced it with another as it has always been one of the best varieties.
Peaches grown outdoors are a gamble on getting a good year. Pollination of flowers is a real struggle and in our wetter cooler climate peach leaf curl is a major problem.
Cherries are a better prospect now that they can be grown on a dwarfing rootstock such as Gisela 5, but you need to know that they are on that stock otherwise they will grow so big that netting is impossible and the local blackbirds will reap the harvest.

Soft Fruit
Strawberry Flamenco
There are just as many new varieties of soft fruit arriving on our doorsteps, so just when you think you have the latest, out pops another type sweeter or bigger or with less thorns than the last one.
I still await my new Big Ben blackcurrant to show me if I really do have a bigger and sweeter berry than my lovely Ben Conan. I enjoy eating fresh blackcurrants straight from the bush when fully ripe, but are we ready to munch our way through a whole punnet then go back for some more.
This will also be the year to sample my first autumn fruited raspberries Polka and Autumn Treasure said to be much bigger than Autumn Bliss, and at the same time my new blackberry Reuben claimed in catalogues to be much sweeter and twice as big as other brambles. Reuben is a primocane bramble fruiting on canes grown in the same year.
Sophie picking grape Phoenix 
My other venture into the unknown is my variety trial of grapes grown outdoors on south facing fences hoping to find the perfect Scottish grown grape. Earlier plantings gave a lot of promise before phytophthora root rot took out two good varieties, Rondo and Regent, both of which had given me small bunches of ripe grapes. These have now been replaced on land hopefully free from this disease. Solaris has been grown for several years and although slow to establish, did give me a couple of small bunches of Muscat flavoured grapes last year. Muscat Bleu and Polo Muscat are now well established so maybe I will get some grapes this autumn. Phoenix has somehow survived on my diseased ground, and had three bunches last year. Growth has started well this year, so could be another
Saskatoons ready to pick
winner if we can get a good warm and sunny autumn.
New varieties of saskatoons such as Martin, Northline JB30 and Pembina as well as Smoky and Thiessen have arrived in Scotland and will soon be available.
Strawberry Mae is just about ready under tunnels, then fresh strawberries will continue all summer with Elsanta, Florence and Symphony, then into autumn with Flamenco.

Wee jobs to do this week
Start thinning out any seedling of radish, lettuce, parsnips, turnips or even beetroot before they get too big. Lettuce thinnings can be used to increase supply if required and planted as an intercrop between sprouts or other slower growing fruit or vegetables.
Annuals sown in rows can be thinned out or used as transplants. Some types sown in cellular trays can now be planted out as plugs. I use Livingston daisies and poppies this way. They are perfect for adding colour to areas devoted to my aconites and snowdrops which will soon be dormant.


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